While some believe the Raiders will march into Indianapolis on Sunday and destroy the Colts, they forget something. With shrewd drafting and budgeted free agent signing, the Colts crafted an extremely sound front seven. Now, the Raiders, tasked with thwarting them, must understand their scheme, talent, and overall depth. For this article, we’ll focus on the front seven.
Defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus runs the defensive with a head coach looking over his shoulder. With Frank Reich solely trained on the offense, the Colts’ defense plan is his, alone. When you watch the film, you notice pure speed and agility. Indianapolis prefers a fast-flowing front seven to swarm the ball. Granted, Eberflus does preach scheme discipline, the athletes up front get after the ball. In a base 4-3, Eberflus will show the Raiders a scheme that will feature exotic blitzes, pressure and stunts. From anywhere, the Colts will send a rusher during a pass attempt. If the Raiders want to prevail, their offensive line must assert their incredible size advantage.
The Raiders catch a break, of sorts. Starting left end Jabaal Sheard remains sidelined with a knee injury. As a result, Al-Quadin Muhammad steps in. Like Sheard, Muhammad operates with pure speed, and quick hands. Trent Brown must get his punch working early. With a clear hundred pounds in size on his opponents, Brown needs to bully Muhammad at the point of attack. On the other side, long-time nemesis, Justin Houston will bring the fight to Kolton Miller.
Houston may not possess the quick first step that he once enjoyed, he will exploit holes in opponents’ technique. Miller and the Raiders must not guess when it comes to Houston. Perhaps the two most intriguing prospects sit at the back of the rotation. Kemoko Turay should see reps strictly on passing downs. His burst and nimbleness make him a priority block. Meanwhile, rookie Ben Banogu’s flexibility, long arms and diversified rush set could net him multiple snaps.
Denico Autry remains the one that got away from the Raiders. Reggie McKenzie allowed Autry to test free agency after the 2017 season. During his first year in Indy, he tallied nine sacks. After bouncing around the line in Oakland, Autry found a home as the under tackle. Within the scheme, Autry brings surprising power and quick feet that gives heavier guards. The Raiders need to make it a point to run right at him and wash him out. Margus Hunt could be the largest nose tackle in the NFL, height-wise. At six-foot-eight, Hunt’s power jars centers, clogging the middle, forcing the play east and west. However, at times, the former Bengal will play a bit too high. If the Raiders can win the leverage battle, they will control the line
As of this writing, All-Pro Darius Leonard’s status remains unclear. Suffering a concussion Sunday, his absence opens the door for rookie EJ Speed. Speed lives up to his name with the ability to suddenly sift through trash and make the stop. If Leonard can’t go, the onus falls to middle linebacker Anthony Walker. Walker, a sure tackler, gives the defense direction and leadership. In addition, his ability to make each stop stands out.
In all seriousness, the Raiders need to lean on the Colts. That is to say, wear them down with the run. If that means twenty carries for Josh Jacobs and another ten, split between Richard and Washington, so be it. Nothing fancy. The Raiders possess a profound size advantage. Getting cute and tricky here will not work here.